Last week ConservativeHome published a guide to the decidedly Thatcherite views of the candidates who have been adopted as Conservative candidates for the next General Election. 126 adopted candidates took part in the survey that also asked for advice for all those contemplating following in their footsteps. Below we group the advice they offered - chosen to be representative of the whole:
DON'T LEAVE FIRST BASE WITHOUT YOUR FAMILY'S SUPPORT
> "The road to being a candidate and MP gobbles up time and money. If your spouse isn't 100% committed you are putting your marriage at risk. Support from partner/ husband/ wife is a first base call."
> "Be prepared to work very hard without thanks or reward, often without the full support of your association, to miss out on promotion at work and to risk strife at home! That said, it can be very fulfilling and of course if / when you win, it will all seem worth the stress."
DON'T PUT ALL OF YOUR EGGS IN THE 'I WANNA BECOME AN MP' BASKET
> "Most of the people who started on this search with me have given up or STILL haven't been adopted. For most people the road to becoming an MP isn't just hard and long but unsuccessful."
> "Get a job and life, and when you have done something real and valuable, then consider standing for office."
> "Be patient; get on with life outside politics and make a success of it because a political career is highly unreliable; have fun."
IT'S NOT WHAT YOU KNOW, IT'S WHO YOU KNOW
> "Seriously - do some homework - and be seen in the right places - by elections, various events that the area CCHQ staff are at...and the like...don't bother doing 10,15, 20 years working your way up through the ranks gaining experience."
> "Lick up to everyone in CCHQ who matters to get on the A list - get the fix in your favour and make sure you're good on the night too."
> "Hold your nose while youre on your way up. Say nice things to the CCO staff who will lose your CV or put it on the top of the pile. It's nauseating but these people have so much power.Too much power."
> "I was told by a CCHQ employee that if I applied for the seat they would ensure I got an interview. We'll manage the sift for you. It was a person I'd bought champagne at the last Party Conference. It was the best £35 I ever spent in my time in the party."
PREPARE TO LOSE A LOT OF MONEY
> "Over the last ten years I've spent at least £100,000 getting to this point and I feel lucky. I will be an MP in the first Conservative government of the 21st century but many others have spent tens of thousands and have got nowhere."
> A ConservativeHome survey - published last year - found that the average cost of becoming a Conservative MP was £41,500. 49% of adopted candidates expect their candidacies to cost more than this when they add up direct costs and lost income opportunities. The same survey found that 55% thought that their incomes would drop if they become MPs.
PERSEVERE: THIS IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT
> "Get a thick skin. Work hard and be prepared for a long, hard and lonely haul."
> "Develop elephant hide."
> "Do not give up, keep on keeping on."
> "It is a marathon not a sprint and you must pace yourself accordingly."
SPEND MONEY ON EXPERT HELP
> "Don't do this on your own. Hire a coach. Talk to candidates already selected about who to hire."
> "I got no where until I started getting professional help. Getting selected is partly an art but there's also science to what you say, what you wear, how you prepare. A few thousands spent now on good advice from the likes of Mark Fulbrook will get you selected faster and so save you many thousands more down the road."
DON'T LOSE SIGHT OF WHY YOU GOT INTO ALL OF THIS
"Know why you're doing it and be prepared to compromise your career and say goodbye to evenings and weekends."
YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN...
> "Don't expect the work that needs to be done in most marginal seats to be done by others - expect to have to alter your whole life."
> "Expect help from nobody but yourself."
> "Be prepared for very little support from the party, count any support as a blessing."
> "If you lose you seat then expect to be very, very lonely. No one thanks you."
> "Be prepared for a fractious and ungrateful local Association. If you get a decent one, you're lucky."
...UNLESS YOU FORM A CIRCLE OF TRUST
> "The best thing I have is my group of three. Three friends who are part of the party and know the score. They tell me what is going on, they tell me when I am being sensible or paranoid. They tell me if I'm being fair to my family or unfeeling. I rehearsed my selection speeches in front of them."
> "Never use notes when speaking. You should know what you have to say. If you can't do this then realistically you are probably not going to make it as an MP."
> "Get the CV filled up with hands-on campaigning wherever's handy for you. For example, don't write a press release about saving a post office: Go and work in one, even in a different constituency, and go to the public meetings. Then you'll be able to show the selection committee, or open primary that, while you acknowledge the party is doing wonders nationally, you will get stuck in locally. It really isn't all about top notch public speaking skills and a conveniently healthy bank balance. It's convincing the selection panel that voters will connect with you, and be prepared to trust you. That you'll get your hands dirty, however needy and unrealistic constituents may be, that you'll do what you say you will etc. For that reason alone, be realistic about the seats you go for, especially where it's unlikely you'll win. Putting in effort locally is one thing: Travelling miles before you can get started is another. Also, if you have no energy, no personality, no sense of humour, a history of giving up in the face of disappointment or a tendancy to get very angry at every unfairness with which you are visited, look for other ways of having a fulfilling life. A recollection that being a MP is about public service would also help."